February 29th, 2024

N.W.T. coroner’s office confirms deaths in passenger plane crash

By The Canadian Press on January 23, 2024.

RCMP say a plane has crashed near Fort Smith, N.W.T. An RCMP logo is seen in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 16, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

FORT SMITH, N.W.T. – The Northwest Territories Coroner’s Service says there are fatalities from a passenger plane that crashed Tuesday near the community of Fort Smith.

It did not say how many people were dead or give further details, saying it must first notify next of kin.

The hospital in Fort Smith, located near the Alberta boundary, activated its mass casualty protocol. The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority did not provide other details, citing patient confidentiality.

In a news release, it said the protocol would be in place at the Fort Smith Health Centre indefinitely. Such a protocol is initiated when the number of patients and treatment required could exhaust a hospital’s resources.

“We are working closely with other emergency response agencies,” the release said.

No details were provided on how many people were on the plane.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said the British Aerospace Jetstream was registered to Northwestern Air Lease.

The airline’s website said it has two of those planes in its fleet that can carry 19 passengers.

A representative for the company did not provide comment but confirmed it was a charter flight.

The safety board was sending investigators to the scene.

Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Trenton said the military responded when the plane lost contact shortly after taking off in the morning near Fort Smith, a town about 740 kilometres south of Yellowknife.

The Air Force, RCMP and Canadian Rangers were all involved in the search-and-rescue, said public affairs officer David Lavallee.

Three Air Force squadrons provided air support, while police and rangers conducted a search on the ground, he said.

A CC-130H Hercules aircraft travelled to the site from Calgary and a CC-130J Hercules was sent from Trenton, Ont., he said. A Twin Otter aircraft was sent from Yellowknife.

“Canadian Rangers located the aircraft near the Slave River, and (search-and-rescue) “¦ parachuted into the site,” said Lavallee.

N.W.T. Premier R.J. Simpson thanked first responders and offered condolences to the family and friends of those killed.

“The impact of this incident is felt across the territory,” he said in a statement. “The people we lost were not just passengers on a flight; they were neighbours, colleagues, friends and loved ones. Their stories and contributions to our communities will not be forgotten.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Jan. 23, 2024.

– By Brittany Hobson in Winnipeg.

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